For the second night in a row, the New York Islanders grabbed a regulation win against a Metro opponent after notching three first-period goals. This time, however, they did it the hard way, coughing up a 3-0 lead to the Philadelphia Flyers before Ryan Pulock saved the day with a game-winning blast with 39 seconds to go in regulation. An empty net marker made the final 5-3.
The win is tempered by concerning news, however, as Casey Cizikas was lost to injury on his second shift. Cizikas left in the game’s opening minutes after an awkward collision along the boards where he either torqued or bruised his knee, or else took an impact from a Flyer’s skate as he landed. The Islanders of course disclosed it only as a “lower body” injury, but the way he hobbled off hinted that he’ll at minimum be questionable as the Isles embark on a four-game Western trip.
First Period: This is going to be so easy.
With both teams coming off wins last night — and both recently thumping the division-leading Capitals — this looked to be a tight game. It ultimately ended up that way, but you wouldn’t know it form the first period. The Islanders scored with regularity, from multiple sources, while Semyon Varlamov shut the door at the other end.
Josh Bailey opened scoring at 7:45 with his 12th of the season, in an unlikely way: After a good forecheck from the top line, Mathew Barzal fed Bailey coming off the bench from a line change. Bailey’s one-timer beat Brian Elliott from above the faceoff circle.
Four minutes later, the Flyers suffered the ultimate insult when facing the Islanders: Conceding a two-on-one goal to Matt Martin and Leo Komarov with Cizikas not even on the ice. In truth, Cizikas’ temporary replacement between the two, Derick Brassard, was key to the play by beating his defenseman at the point in the Islanders zone and sending the two checking forwards off on the two-on-one.
Martin was careful to get the initial pass to Komarov, who held as long as he could before feeding across the top of the crease to Martin. Still, Elliott overplayed the situation and wound up straddling the right post as Martin converted.
Four minutes later, the top line hemmed the Flyers into fatigued resignation, Barzal received a pass behind the net and half-lacrossed it around the other side, then did one of his ankle-breaking moves to earn space toward the front of the net. The rebound of his backhand found Jordan Eberle at the doorstep for a tap-in to make it 3-0.
Second Period: This is not going to be easy, in fact
So after all that, it looked like it should have been an easy evening. But the Flyers responded in a big way in the second period, generating chance from the beginning and finally making things close with two goals in a 2:24 span in the middle of the period.
And if it hadn’t been for Varlamov, who made 12 saves in the period — several of them tricky and/or redirected — the Flyers could’ve justly reached the second intermission with a tie or even the lead.
On the Flyers’ first goal, the Islanders had all five players in position in their zone. But Travis Konecny benefitted from a cross-zone pass and a screen by a sliding Leo Komarov to put his outside shot past Varlamov at 9:34.
Then at 11:56, another Flyers wave brought them to within one, Claude Giroux bouncing a shot off Varlamov’s pad to an on-rushing Robert Hagg, who beat Anthony Beauvillier to the loose puck and made it 3-2.
The Islanders survived to the second intermission still hanging on to that lead, but it wasn’t comfortable.
Third Period: This is going to be exciting, at least.
The Islanders calmed things down considerably in the third period, though holding on to a one-goal lead for 20 minutes against a recharged opponent was always going to be a tough task. At the midpoint of the period, the Flyers had two sustained opportunities to get the equalizer with two power plays in a five-minute span.
Their best chance from those came on the first one, when Claude Giroux found Konecny all alone on the doorstep, but Konecny’s mis-hit went off the post; then a sprawled Semyon Varlamov somehow had the strength and instant awareness to block Sean Couturier’s rebound try with the back of his stick hand.
The Islanders were more efficient killing off the second power play, aided by an Anthony Beauvillier speedburst that created a half-chance before he was pulled down, shouting for but not receiving a drawn penalty.
But the Flyers did not relent, and a faceoff with two minutes left gave them a chance to call a timeout and pull Elliott for a sixth attacker. A fortunate bounce off a skate in the slot put the puck off the end boards, where an alert Couturier slammed the rebound in off Varlamov’s pad.
A bad Barclays bounce - tied at 3 pic.twitter.com/KTdAPqkZGP— IslesBlog (@IslesBlog) February 12, 2020
Facing potential deflation after blowing a 3-0 lead, however, this times it was the Islanders who did not relent. They used the next shift to apply pressure on the Flyers and clearly were trying to set up Pulock’s cannon.
An initial try bobbled, so he had to dust it off and send it back in the corner. But a second chance came when Barzal used his mobile wizardry to captivate the Flyers defense, slide behind the opposite side of the net with the puck, and set up Pulock in perfect position. Elliott looked on one side of screening forward James van Riemsdyk while Pulock’s blast went on the other side of the forward and into the top corner.
From deflation to ecstasy, just like that.
Komarov finished things off into the empty net after Josh Bailey lofted a backhand lob for him from the Islanders blueline.
And with that, the Islanders swept a back-to-back against Metro opponents, each in regulation. Nice finale before they head out West.
"Our group was determined tonight. The biggest thing for me was no matter how the game is going, we're staying to the process." - Barry Trotz pic.twitter.com/b2p6757uzw— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 12, 2020
Konecny following #PHIvsNYI: “It’s a tough one to swallow right now. It was a great effort...The bench was confident all game. We trusted the persistence that it would pay off in the end.”— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) February 12, 2020
The win creates a little, if ephemeral, room between the Islanders and their nearest wild card Metro foes like the Flyers, Blue Jackets and Hurricanes. It also pulls them to within two points of the Penguins, who lost in OT tonight.
So these were four big points, but the Islanders now face another challenge: Four games on the road, playing every other night in Nashville, Vegas, Colorad and Arizona.
With Cizikas likely on the shelf, the suddenly hot Komarov might get thrust back into a role that doesn’t quite suit him.
Barry Trotz has no update on Casey Cizikas. Don't believe team is practicing tomorrow so might not be something until Thursday. Trotz said recalling a player will be discussed.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) February 12, 2020